16 March 2012

in celebration of my irish catholic roots

My family on my grandma's side was so very Irish Catholic.

Irish Catholic as in when you look at the family tree, it's a mess of Katherines and Annas and Bridgets.

Irish Catholic as in there are nuns in those branches of my family tree, and when you think about it, it's funny to imagine a nun in her habit climbing a tree. Or even just hanging out on one of the branches.

Irish Catholic as in farmers from County Waterford who were not quite rich enough to afford that lovely Waterford crystal.

Irish Catholic as in go to Mass every day and say the rosary and keep a crucifix next to your bed.

But I am not a nun {climbing a tree or otherwise},
nor do I go to Mass every day {although I do go past a Catholic church every morning on my walk with Little Pug},
nor do I own any Waterford crystal {so I guess my ancestors and I have that in common},
and next to my bed is a stack of books and a lamp shaped like the Eiffel Tower {not at all like Jesus}.

Here I am, just two generations down from my grandma, and we are so far from our roots. Our roots have now crossed with the Protestants, which makes some sort of hybrid tree.

I don't know much about trees, but I do know a little bit about wine, and when you create hybrids of vines, it can make for a complex, wonderful, drink-this-with-soft-cheeses kind of wine.

I assume this crossing makes us more complex and wonderful, but a newspaper story I found about my great-grandmother makes me think she wouldn't be so enamored of our complex and wonderful hybrid of a family tree.

My hometown newspaper, The Hawk Eye, did a profile of my great-grandma because she had taken to knitting mittens and socks and scarves for the less fortunate.

{When you come from a small-ish town, these are the kinds of things you get in the paper for. I was once in that very same paper because, as an 8-year-old, I started attending the Des Moines County Historical Society meetings. I loved history—still do—but I remember being rather disappointed that there weren't more meetings where we got to talk about porcelain dolls and how fun it was to dress them up in historical clothes.}

So Anna Anderson took to knitting, and she said the kind of things you'd expect a hardworking, no nonsense Iowan to say: "If you keep busy doing worthwhile things for others, you will have no time for self-pity."

Even though I never met my great-grandmother, I can safely say that attitude of hers has trickled down through the family.

Unlike her Catholicism. No, that has not trickled so much as gotten diverted and then run dry.

She also said in the article:
I laugh a lot when I am working with orange yarn, for I recall how my father [Hugh Brady] detested that color. He was Irish Catholic. Orange always reminded him of the Orangemen [the Protestants] of his country. Not one speck of orange was allowed in our home and that meant, too, that we couldn't have even one single orange flower growing in our gardens
So Hugh Brady didn't allow any orange in his house, but when my parents re-did their living room a couple of years ago, they chose this very warm, very rich shade of orange.

How very Orangemen of them, not that they were thinking in terms of Catholic and Protestant at that point; the decision was more swayed, I think, by what would look best in that sunny room overlooking the Mississippi.

And no orange flowers? Please keep this in mind when you—any of you—buy me a bouquet. {Unsubtle message: Would someone please buy me flowers?}

Oh, yes, how far we've come from our Irish Catholic roots—in a complex and wonderful way that allows me to celebrate my Irish Catholic roots on Saturday and go to an Anglican church on Sunday.

Maybe I'll wear orange.

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